In this week’s tracker, Amazon slowly spreads into trickier territory: prescription pharmaceuticals, smart glasses, and shipping alcohol (which is a logistical nightmare). It’s also made progress through the more traditional method of partnerships, though its most recent choices may not be what you’d expect. Finally, not every retailer can be Amazon, but they can all learn something from the eCommerce giant – here’s what.
Amazon may be getting into the mail order pharmacy business. The eCommerce giant has reportedly been in talks with middle market pharmacy benefit managers to arrange a contract. The target market would be the uninsured and customers with high deductibles who pay cash for their prescription drugs.
Amazon has mulled an entrance to this market a number of times before, but now it is in the process of hiring a new general manager to actually come up with a strategy, meaning those talks could be a little more serious this time. However, it could still take up to two years for the company to get drug licenses in all 50 U.S. states.
Making The Honors Roll
The Hilton hotel chain is now allowing its customers to redeem their Hilton Honors rewards points via Amazon, making it the first hotel operator to offer such an ability. Guests who are Amazon members can simply link their Honors account to their Amazon one to access those rewards at no extra charge.
Mark Weinstein, Hilton’s senior vice president and global head of customer engagement, loyalty and partnerships, said in a press release that the benefit (the latest in a series of new loyalty perks) will give Hilton Honors members more flexibility with their points, therefore delivering greater value to make the hospitality program sticky.
Google couldn’t make smart glasses work, and Snapchat’s Spectacles haven’t exactly done a booming business either, but Amazon is optimistic that it has the missing piece to push this futuristic technology to success, and her name is Alexa.
The smart glasses – Amazon’s first wearable – will reportedly have the Amazon Alexa voice-activated assistant built in and will leverage bone conduction technology so that the user can hear Alexa without wearing headphones or using a speaker. The smart glasses will look like regular old glasses and will not have a screen or camera like Google Glass did, despite being built by the same developer, Babak Parviz.
The existing partnership between Kohl’s and Amazon has expanded. Now, in addition to buying Amazon’s Echo and Fire tablet lines at Kohl’s stores, shoppers will be able to make Amazon returns at certain Kohl’s retail locations in the U.S.
The service is slated to roll out to 82 stores in Chicago and Los Angeles next month, with designated Amazon returns parking spaces planned to make using the program even easier.
Good news for Amazon, but what does Kohl’s get out of the deal? Simple: what every brick and mortar retailer would kill for these days – real, live, flesh-and-blood foot traffic. Plus, it has the potential to help the retailer leverage underutilized parts of its store footprint and drive up visitor frequency.
51 percent of retailers say they offer same-day delivery. One year ago, that percentage was only 16. Boston Retail Partners (BRP) is attributing the shift to Amazon Prime, which, by dominating the retail landscape, is forcing competitors to keep up or give up. Autonomous delivery and distribution may be the next step, BRP predicted.
Retailers would do well to emulate Amazon in some other areas, too, according to BRP: namely, personalized service, ubiquity (omnichannel), and a unified brand experience across those channels.
Three Cheers For New Alcohol Delivery Strategy
In the U.S., it’s illegal to mail intoxicating liquor. Even private delivery companies (FedEx, UPS) have strict regulations around it, plus each state and municipality has its own roles. Alcohol delivery requires agents to check the ID of each purchaser, making it difficult to complete efficiently with autonomous delivery.
Since acquiring Whole Foods Market, however, Amazon has quietly expanded its Prime Now delivery service, which focuses on grocery delivery, to include several new cities in its alcohol delivery service. Consumers may also be able to “click and collect” beer from their local Whole Foods Market.